Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Leatherback Turtle Threatened By Plastic Garbage In Ocean

Date:
March 16, 2009
Source:
Dalhousie University
Summary:
Leatherback turtles, the most widely distributed reptiles on Earth, are threatened with extinction themselves, in large part due to the carelessness of humans. A professor addresses the threat of plastics to this endangered species. Since leatherbacks prefer eating jellyfish, it's widely believed they mistake bags or other plastics for their meals.

A leatherback turtle at sea.
Credit: Image courtesy of Canadian Sea Turtle Network

Leatherback turtles, the most widely distributed reptiles on Earth, are threatened with extinction themselves, in large part due to the carelessness of humans. A Dalhousie University professor addresses the threat of plastics to this endangered species.

Related Articles


They survived the extinction of the dinosaurs. They're descendants of one of the oldest family trees in history, spanning 100 million years. But today leatherback turtles, the most widely distributed reptiles on Earth, are threatened with extinction themselves, in large part due to the carelessness of humans.

We've seen reference to the dangers plastic poses to marine life, garbage that we humans directly and indirectly deposit in the oceans, but how clearly have we received the message? Not well enough according to a recent article in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin co-authored by Dalhousie University's Mike James.

“We wanted to see if plastics ingestion in leatherbacks was hype or reality,” says Dr. James, senior species at risk biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and adjunct professor with Dalhousie’s Department of Biology.

“It was a monumental effort that looked back at necropsies over the last century from all over the world,” he explains. (Necropsies are post-mortem examinations performed on animals.) “After reviewing the results of 371 necropsies since 1968, we discovered over one third of the turtles had ingested plastic.”

Since leatherbacks prefer eating jellyfish, it's widely believed they mistake bags or other plastics for their meals. Since jellyfish and marine debris concentrate where ocean water masses meet, leatherbacks feeding in these areas are vulnerable to ingesting plastic.

Once leatherbacks ingest plastic, thousands of spines lining the throat and esophagus make it nearly impossible to regurgitate. The plastic can lead to partial or even complete obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in decreased digestive efficiency, energetic and reproductive costs and, for some, starvation.

“Plastics ingestion doesn’t always cause death, but there are clearly health risks to the turtles,” says Dr.James.

Fascinated by reptiles as a child, Dr. James developed a lifelong interest in turtles, from raising them as a kid, to his PhD research and now as a biologist and conservationist. He says there are simple ways to stop these ongoing threats.

“The frustrating, yet hopeful aspect is that humans can easily begin addressing the solution, without major lifestyle changes,” says Dr. James. “It's as simple as reducing packaging and moving towards alternative, biodegradable materials and recycling.”

Leatherback turtles are classified as critically endangered world-wide. The true population size is not precisely known, as only adult females come ashore for nesting in remote tropical locations. During the summer and fall, Canadian waters support the highest density of foraging leatherbacks in the North Atlantic.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dalhousie University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mrosovsky et al. Leatherback turtles: The menace of plastic. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2009; 58 (2): 287 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.10.018

Cite This Page:

Dalhousie University. "Leatherback Turtle Threatened By Plastic Garbage In Ocean." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090315224258.htm>.
Dalhousie University. (2009, March 16). Leatherback Turtle Threatened By Plastic Garbage In Ocean. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090315224258.htm
Dalhousie University. "Leatherback Turtle Threatened By Plastic Garbage In Ocean." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090315224258.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins